Studying IR From a Fresh Perspective

March 7, 2022

by Niamh Punton, Alumni Scholarship Recipient and MA student in the Department of International Relations

When I was choosing to apply to CEU I remember looking at the courses available on the university’s website. I was trying to see whether I could imagine actually studying at CEU; whether the courses being offered by the International Relations department would allow me to explore the aspects of the subject which I was interested in. After looking at the course listing, I came across a class titled ‘Knowing, Narrating, (re)Writing International Relations’. The outline of the course, along with the reading list, instantly caught my attention. I was convinced that CEU could be the place for me to study International Relations. Having just completed my first term at CEU, I can say that the ‘Knowing, Narrating, (re)Writing International Relations’ class did not disappoint. In fact, it is probably the class that I have enjoyed most so far.

‘Knowing, Narrating, (re)Writing International Relations’ forces students to think about International Relations from a different perspective. Rather than following the traditional IR canon, the class takes a critical and non-mainstream approach to the subject. Students explore topics such as postcolonialism, feminist and queer theory, visual politics, and the interaction between IR and the environment. By studying International Relations through these non-traditional approaches, students are forced to think about how world politics can be understood and produced through different knowledge systems and methodologies.

As well as challenging academic understandings of the topic of International Relations, it also forces students to confront what we have learnt about academic writing. The class introduces different forms of writing IR: narrative writing, autobiography, the IR novel, and the IR fairy tale. As students we are encouraged to think about how these non-traditional writing styles can add to the discipline, and how we can put the personal - or the ‘I’- in IR. This was made possible through weekly reflective writing exercises, and the opportunity to submit experimental writing projects in lieu of traditional academic papers.

I particularly enjoyed this class because I felt that it challenged traditional notions of International Relations, and what students may have previously been taught. Both the styles of academic writing introduced, and the viewpoints through which IR was explored, made the class extremely refreshing and unique to any other class I have taken. ‘Knowing, Narrating, (re)Writing International Relations’ was not always an easy class; it certainly forced me to confront my own perceptions and what I have previously been taught, and to think about entirely new – and sometimes complicated – ideas and understandings. However, this is also what made the class so rewarding. Being pushed outside of my comfort zone meant that I was constantly learning; as a result, I am now able to think more openly about IR, and to challenge what can and should be considered ‘knowledge’. What I have learnt from this class will definitely help me as I continue on my academic journey, encouraging me to reflect on what I study in International Relations from new and exciting perspectives.